Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Prom corsages, birthday candles and hazard lights

Something was definitely wrong. The sounds of crunching metal, squealing rubber and exploding plastic came from up ahead. The explicative uttered from the front seat was the next clue. Then there was a Dodge pickup sliding sideways into our lane of travel, complete with screeching tires and a wildly careening trailer behind it.

Oh crap, are we going to crash? Yes. No, maybe not. Oh, shit yes we are.

The distance between the sliding truck and our front bumper was closing fast. Then it was gone in a metal-bending jolt.

I immediately turned to my right to see if my daughter was injured.

"Are you OK? Are you hurt?"

"I'm OK."

All four of us in the car came out shaken and with a few muscle strains, but there was no blood or penetrating trauma. No broken bones, cuts or abrasions. Just frayed nerves.

In all there were four cars involved in the crash on a busy commercial street in southeast Portland. The car I was in was the furthest from the initial point of impact, but all four cars involved in the crash had to be towed from the scene. Remarkably, no one else suffered any obvious injuries either. But a trip home from Sunday lunch became much more of an adventure than any of us imagined it would be. We were winding down from a long week of family activities -- Mother's Day, a state golf tournament, a barbecue, a business trip, a high school prom, a surprise birthday party, time with extended family and a four-car crash that blocked three lanes of a four-lane city street.

It was quite a week and I can't quite do it justice here. The images still whirl in my mind in brief flashes. I'm having a difficult time finding the words to explain how the buzz of activity affected me. But I realized, that even after being involved in a car crash, even that difficult experience with my daughter was better than most other days spent alone without her.

I need to remind myself, when I have questions and doubts about whether I have made the right choices in my life the last few years that I am where I want to and need to be. Seeing my daughter experience milestones in life, being with her at times of celebration or stress, is worth some personal/professional disappointments. I can't be there every day, but I'm there a lot more days and spending time with her and the other people I love and who I know love me.

We aren't a traditional family. We don't fit a Norman Rockwell ideal. But we celebrate many of life's big and small moment's together. And when life comes crashing in, we are there to hold each other, hug each other and make sure we are all OK.

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